Tuesday Late Afternoon Blues

Minxy’s out surfing samsara this afternoon.  I’m trying to muster up some good vibes today for her as she faces all the “it’s a short life” kind’ve stuff that goes on with the early passing of a friend. As for me, I seem to be entering my blue period. Maybe it’s because I just get cannot this friggin’ gravity model specified correctly and maybe it’s just my parameters that are tangled up and BLUE Okay, you won’t know what BLUE means for a regression estimator (Best Linear Unbiased Estimator  e.g. BLUE) unless you’re as steeped in econometrics as I am but it’s a good play on words.  REALLY. Chuckle sympathetically because I need it today.  I wish I could like football like normal people.  Instead, I follow the bloodsport of politics and its inherent nastiness these days and I have way too many degrees in the dismal science.  The results are bound to get to you one way or another.

So this little piece is about the U.S. and blue to match my mood.   I’m going to start out with some blue estimators of a different sort.

There was a bit of poll that showed a glimmer of true hope instead of the manufactured sort out today.  Recent entrant into the Massachusetts Senate Race, Elizabeth Warren, is polling ahead of glamor boy Republican Scott Brown who replaced the late Ted Kennedy.

Elizabeth Warren has had an incredibly successful launch to her Senate campaign and actually leads Scott Brown now by a 46-44 margin, erasing what was a 15 point deficit the last time we polled the state in early June.

Warren’s gone from 38% name recognition to 62% over the last three months and she’s made a good first impression on pretty much everyone who’s developed an opinion about her during that period of time.  What was a 21/17 favorability rating in June is now 40/22- in other words she’s increased the voters with a positive opinion of her by 19% while her negatives have risen only 5%.

The surprising movement toward Warren has a lot to do with her but it also has a lot to do with Scott Brown.  We now find a slight plurality of voters in the state disapproving of him- 45%, compared to only 44% approving.  We have seen a steady decline in Brown’s numbers over the last 9 months.  In early December his approval was a +24 spread at 53/29.  By June it had declined to a +12 spread at a 48/36.  And now it’s continued that fall to its current place.

Meanwhile, the mixed up mess of Republican presidential candidates is shaking up to a two white man race.  Gallup reports that Perry has a better chance than Romney of sealing the nomination at this point, but Romney has a better chance than Perry to beat Obama.  No surprises there.

Rick Perry leads Mitt Romney by 31% to 24% in a new USA Today/Gallup poll of Republican presidential nomination preferences. The two are well ahead of the rest of the GOP field, with Ron Paul the only other candidate in double figures.

Perry seems to have momentum, but that could be slowed in the coming weeks if Republicans start to perceive that Romney is more electable in the general election. The new poll finds the slight majority of Republicans, 53%, prefer to see their party nominate the person who has the best chance of beating Obama, even if that person does not agree with them on almost all of the issues they care about. Forty-three percent would prefer a candidate who does agree with them on almost all of the issues, even if that person does not have the best chance of winning in November 2012.

Romney currently edges out President Barack Obama by 49% to 47% in national registered-voter preferences for the November election, while Perry trails Obama by 45% to 50%. However, neither Romney nor Obama is ahead by a statistically significant margin.

It’s no wonder Perry wants out of Texas.  This poll should direct Perry into the Even Cowgirls get the Blues line.  Texans do not like Governor Goodhair if you believe PPP’s numbers.

The poll, released Tuesday, showed Perry with a negative approval in Texas: while 45 percent of the state’s voters approve of Perry’s job performance, 48 percent of Texas voters say they don’t approve.

Obama should have The Blues over this poll from Marist.  Will this lead to calls for a primary challenger on calls on him to pull an LBJ?

President Barack Obama faces a litany of bad news.  The president’s job approval rating, his favorability, and his rating on the economy have hit all-time lows.  To compound matters, three in four Americans still believe the nation is in a recession and the proportion who thinks the country is moving in the wrong direction is at its highest point in more than a decade.

According to this McClatchy-Marist Poll, the president’s approval rating is at 39% among registered voters nationally, an all-time low for Mr. Obama.  For the first time a majority — 52% — disapproves of the job he is doing in office, and 9% are unsure.

You’ve always known that Wall Street is only True Blue to profits and not the country right?  Grok this headline at Politico via the WSJ.  It looks like a lot of hedge funds were betting the US to lose its AAA standing with S&P.  The SEC is launching insider trading probes.  Can we please get some perp walks now, please?

Securities and Exchange Commission officials have sent subpoenas to financial firms in a probe of whether there was insider trading — betting on a market crash — before the United States’ long-term credit rating was cut by S&P last month, reports The Wall Street Journal.

At issue are trades that were made by hedge funds and other firms shortly before the rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded U.S. debt from triple-A to double-A-plus on Aug. 5 and cited the dysfunctional political climate in Washington as one of the reasons.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 635 points, or 5.5 percent, on Aug. 8, the first day of trading after the downgrade. This was the sharpest one-day decline since the financial crisis in 2008, but it also made bets against the market very profitable.

Securities regulators are looking for firms that bet the stock market would drop — in particular, bearish trades that seem unusually large or were made by firms that typically do not make them.

An SEC spokesman declined to tell The Wall Street Journal which investment firms have received subpoenas.

My guess is it’s the usual vampire squid suspects and all the rest of the guys whose blue balls we pulled out of the bankruptcy fire with TARP and tax dollars. Bets any one?

So here’s the a nifty chart from Paul Krugman–with blue bars–that will make you scream until you’re blue in the face.  Look whose been winning the class war since 1979.  So the deal is not only is their share of income and assets way up, but their after tax income has gone way up too.

Changes in tax rates have strongly favored the very, very rich.

Now, they’re only a fairly small part of the huge growth in the after-tax inequality of income. But tax policy has very much leaned into that growing inequality, not against it — and anyone who says otherwise should not be trusted on this issue, or any other.

So, of course the moment we get a whiff of anything slightly Democratic coming from the President we experience blue dogs howling at the blue moon and the beltway press.

Centrist Democrats, a dwindling breed on Capitol Hill, were quickly faced with another rough choice once Obama went public with his plans: Reject their president or back what Republicans are already calling the largest tax increase in the nation’s history.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who is up for reelection in 2012, has supported raising taxes on millionaires but was still weighing whether he’d support higher taxes on those who make more than $200,000 a year, said spokesman Dan McLaughlin.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a key moderate who’s up for reelection next year, didn’t mince words: “There’s too much discussion about raising taxes right now, not enough focus on cutting spending.”

But Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who likely will face GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg in next year’s reelection bid, hedged a bit, saying he backs provisions in Obama’s plan that call for closing tax loopholes that benefit millionaires and corporations

“This plan isn’t the one I would have written, nor is it the one that will end up passing Congress,” Tester said. “But I welcome all ideas to the table so Congress can work together to create jobs, cut debt and cut spending.”

Blue blooded villager David Brooks admits to being an Obama sap and refers to Beltway Bob as “appreciative”.  I prefer the term deep-throating, but hey, there’s a glint of recognition, right? It’s a two for one villager idiot piece! Look! I’ve managed to use some blue language.

Yes, I’m a sap. I believed Obama when he said he wanted to move beyond the stale ideological debates that have paralyzed this country. I always believe that Obama is on the verge of breaking out of the conventional categories and embracing one of the many bipartisan reform packages that are floating around.

But remember, I’m a sap. The White House has clearly decided that in a town of intransigent Republicans and mean ideologues, it has to be mean and intransigent too. The president was stung by the liberal charge that he was outmaneuvered during the debt-ceiling fight. So the White House has moved away from the Reasonable Man approach or the centrist Clinton approach.

It has gone back, as an appreciative Ezra Klein of The Washington Post conceded, to politics as usual. The president is sounding like the Al Gore for President campaign, but without the earth tones. Tax increases for the rich! Protect entitlements! People versus the powerful! I was hoping the president would give a cynical nation something unconventional, but, as you know, I’m a sap.

Being a sap, I still believe that the president’s soul would like to do something about the country’s structural problems. I keep thinking he’s a few weeks away from proposing serious tax reform and entitlement reform. But each time he gets close, he rips the football away. He whispered about seriously reforming Medicare but then opted for changes that are worthy but small. He talks about fundamental tax reform, but I keep forgetting that he has promised never to raise taxes on people in the bottom 98 percent of the income scale.

I nearly had to stop reading the damned thing since I was about to pass out from putting my palm to my forehead just a few too many times.  Yes, it’s turning black and blue. How are we supposed to get grown up discussions about policy when the two largest newspapers in the country insist posting self serving drivel on a near daily basis.

Okay, here’s my last offering which really does show the best of the Red, White and Blue.  Today is the formal removal of DADT.  0penly Gay and lesbian members of our military no longer have to live double lives or be subject to dismissal.

With Tuesday’s repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gays and lesbians are now free to serve openly in the U.S. armed services.

The U.S. military has spent months preparing for the repeal, updating regulations and training to reflect the impending change, and the Pentagon has already begun accepting applications from openly gay men and women.

It’s events like this that give you a sense that in some way, it’s still

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity

I’m going to get some iced tea and head back to my trade and foreign direct investment research. But, here’s two of my favorites: Dylan’s Tangled up and Blue done by the Indigo Girls for you on this afternoon in New Orleans under a blue sky.

and every one of them words rang true

and glowed like a burning coal

pourin off every page

Like it was written in my soul from me to you

Tangled up and Blue

I lived with them on Montague Street

In a basement down the stairs

There was music in the cafes at night

And revolution in the air …

25 Comments on “Tuesday Late Afternoon Blues”

  1. Branjor says:

    I wish I could like football like normal people.

    A lot of us don’t like football. I don’t like it. All it looks like to me is two human walls coming at each other, and then smash! But then again, I’m not “normal”, whatever that is. Unlike you, I have no wish to like football.

    This post makes me think of a song, Blue, blue, my life is blue…

    • madamab says:

      Oooh! Oooh! I don’t like football either. Neither of you is alone!

      • northwestrain says:

        Me three!

        Years ago my mother’s cousin played on the Oakland Raider’s team — and not even that made me interested in FB.

        Yawn. Thankfully my dear husband has no interest in FB either.

    • Delphyne says:

      I can’t stand football, although in the ’70s I learned to watch it with my ex husband – Raiders football. It’s so violent, so gladiatorial. Besides, I’m always hoping that Michael Vick gets seriously injured – something my more cultivated self shrinks in horror of.

      • madamab says:

        I can’t stand Michael Vick. I love it when his team loses!

        Northwest, you are a lucky woman. My hubby loves football with a passion. The only way I get even slightly interested is when we participate in his office football pool, and we have a chance to win some money. Otherwise, I wouldn’t care if the game disappeared off the planet. 😆

  2. Peggy Sue says:

    Think it’s easy to be blue even if you aren’t up to your eyeballs in econometrics :0). I certainly wouldn’t last 15 minutes.

    But one thing that made me smile today was listening to the likes of Carney and Alder try to explain away the Suskind quotes from women [Dunn and Romer, specifically], particularly since Suskind has the conversations on tape [yes, it’s been confirmed]. I mean the lengths these people will go to wriggle out of bad news truth is astonishing. Alder says it’s not about Suskind having tapes, it’s about context and mistakenly taking a single comment to represent the whole. Huh?? Oh, and what they [the women] were ‘really’ talking about was Summers and Emmanuel. Oakie-dokie!

    I also had the unpleasant experience of reading that Brooks’ ‘I Am A Sap’ essay. What a waste of 30 seconds! I’ve never found Brooks very enlightening but he outdid himself today in pure trivia.

    Right now I’m listening to Cornell West, who is not convinced that Obama has turned a progressive corner. He tends to think this is simply a two-step for reelection purposes. I agree. If Obama wins in 2012, he’ll revert back, embracing all those neo-liberal, Republican-lite stands he has so much affection for and which will only increase suffering across the board.

    Oh, and I too heard the Perry statement. This is another yahoo, not ready for prime time. Which means, of course, he has a chance as the Republican nominee. You can’t make this stuff up.

  3. bluelady says:

    In a small voice,huddled in the corner- But I like blue.

    • dakinikat says:

      Oh, my best thinking is always done in a state of turbulent indigo … I like blue too … it reminds me most of my favorite Joanie Mitchell tunes and album

    • dakinikat says:

      oh, good, this can hold me from reading something other than what I’m supposed to be focused on …

      • dakinikat says:

        oh, lord…

        In August 2009, with health-care reform bogged down and his staff dissolving into frantic infighting—“the worst period of his presidency,” according to Dunn—Obama seemed to be blissfully detached from his political struggles. “My name is Barack Hussein Obama and I’m sitting here,” he said, “So yeah, I’m feeling pretty lucky.” It was only after Republican Scott Brown won the race for a Massachusetts Senate seat that Obama seemed to realize his inspiring life story wasn’t a governing strategy. “What is my narrative? I don’t have a narrative,” a lost-seeming Obama told senior staff. One staffer who was there told Suskind, “For someone like Obama, that’s like saying I don’t know who I am.”

    • madamab says:

      Bought the book yesterday – getting it tomorrow. Wowie zowie, this is a knockout punch.

  4. dakinikat says:

    truthout Truthout
    Obama Proposes a Bailout of Postal Service, Cutting Deliveries http://ow.ly/6zSQh

    It will be interesting to watch blue dawg democrats and republicans deal with this. A huge number of people living in their states won’t get mail unless sort of thing is done. It will never be profitable to take mail to the US hinterlands unless the ranchers and owners of mountaintops want to pay full price; not to mention the huge numbers of rural poor.

  5. dakinikat says:

    BNP Paribas: “The recent flow of data is consistent with our view that the US entered into recession in September.”

  6. mjames says:

    Wow, dak, that’s some excerpt. I’m telling you this is what I’ve thought for a very long time. His simply being, nothing more, is supposed to part the waters. That is what he’s always believed and, I believe, he still does. That is his narrative. And that is his only narrative. He is the Messiah. (And that is why I so frequently refer to him as a megalomaniac.) His schtick worked for a good long time, so long, in fact, that he had visions of infallibility. Thus, he is not only a megalomaniac, blind to reality, he is also completely unfit, empathy-wise or leadership-wise, for any position of authority.

  7. jawbone says:

    Reading this TNR piecet last night giving some details about Obama’s planned “small” changes to Medicare made me kinda blue — and gave me such agita I had trouble getting to sleep. I kept trying to figure out how I could incorporate all these “changes,” meaning increases in costs, into my somewhat stringent budget.

    The New Republic has this explanation of cost-sharing changes:

    Also of note are increases in cost-sharing under some very limited circumstances. This is actually something conservatives should like, at least in theory, since it’s arguably a version of what they call “consumer-directed care,” albeit in a very small dose. In a nutshell, seniors would have to pay slightly higher out-of-pocket costs for home health care and Part B services, plus they’d have to pay a surcharge on their premiums if their Medigap policies have “first-dollar” coverage (in other words, if their Medigap policies don’t have any cost-sharing). The hope is that exposing seniors to incrementally higher out-of-pocket costs would make them a little more wary of using services that might not be necessary. [Who determines whether services “might not be necessary”? Whoa!]

    As with any effort to increase cost-sharing, there’s always a danger that it will penalize people with low incomes or the most serious medical conditions [Ya think???]. But these proposals have the endorsement of many experts [Oh, well that makes it OK then, eh?] – and would protect the sick by, for example, waiving the cost-sharing on home health care if it follows hospitalization. Also, these changes, like the changes to Part B premiums, would start in 2017. Finally, this proposal, like previous ones the president has made, would make it easier to introduce “value based insurance design.” VBID, as it’s known, is a more elegant way to restructure benefits, so that people pay more or less out-of-pocket based primarily on whether the services and treatments they’re getting actually add value. [Again, who determines whether value is added? Ah, yes. Experts.] (My emphasis)

    Let’s see: By making seniors on limited incomes pay more for any health care, “exposing” them to “incrementally higher out-of-pocket costs,” seniors will hopefully be more “wary” of seeking care for themselves.

    Sheesh. Who thinks seniors just say, Oh, hey, today I think I’ll go doctoring. It’s such a fun way to pass the empty hours…. No, they want seniors to self-deny care, just as insurance companies do. People watching their pennies will think many times about getting the intermittent pain checked out. Some expert might say they’d been frivolous in seeing the doctor and perhaps they wouldn’t get Medicare to cover it…. oh, well. Just something related to one’s heart. Or cancer….

    It may well also make them more “wary” –because they’ll have less available income from all these “incremental” increases in the cost of Medicare, cost of supplemental insurance, and cost of who knows what other surprises Obama has in store for them– of buying, oh, food. Meh, they’ll lose weight. Heat. Forget about air conditioning, entertainment, transportation, being able to give gifts to friends and relatives. They’ll be lucky duckies if they have a roof over their heads.

    This is so close to what Sens. Lieberman and Cornyn were offering last July that I realized my fear that Holy Joe was acting as Obama’s stalking horse was, unfortunately, most likely spot on.

    Yes, Holy Joe Lieberman, who said the elderly were using too many services, and he wanted to make everyone pay far more up front before ANY Medicare payments would kick in to slow them down on their medical care shopaholicism. By making the elderly pay more for care, Ol’ Joe thinks they will use less of it.

    And hurry up and die…?

    Major cost saving, that….

    Trudy Lieberman wrote about this in the Columbia Journalism Review in July: Joe Lieberman and his Medicare Gift.

    The plan is deceptively referred to as “Medicare benefit simplification,” says Joe Baker, who heads the Medicare Rights Center, a New York City advocacy group. “What they are proposing is not simplifying the benefit to help consumers but to save the federal government money, and they do that by increasing costs to consumers and providing a disincentive to use medical services.” Lieberman et al want to create a single deductible of $550 for all Medicare services, replacing the separate hospital deductible—this year $1132—and the separate medical deductible of $162. They also want to cap out-of-pocket spending for people with low to middling incomes at $7500.

    Those with higher incomes would have to pay more out-of-pocket in a further effort to means-test the program. There’s already some means testing in Medicare, but Lieberman’s proposal would add more. For example, under his plan, people with an income of $85,000 would have to pay $12,500 out-of-pocket, or about 15 percent of their income before collecting benefits. Experts have long feared that as those with higher incomes pay more, they will lose their support for the program and opt out for private market coverage—thus weakening Medicare’s risk pool, which makes it possible to insure sick people in their old age.

    Baker says a lower, combined deductible is not a good idea. It would raise out-of-pocket costs for millions of beneficiaries who don’t use hospital services during the year. But nearly all seniors go to the doctor, often several times a year, and Lieberman’s plan would require them to pay a $550 deductible instead of the $162 deductible they pay now for physician services. Under current law, they also pay 20 percent of the bills for doctor services, but Medigap policies, the popular ones at least, cover that amount.

    That brings up another goal of Lieberman’s plan—to reduce the amount of coverage Medigap insurance can provide. His plan would forbid Medigap policies, which are owned by some ten million seniors, from paying that deductible. All Medigap policies now cover the hospital deductible, and two of them—Plans F and C—cover the medical deductible. Two-thirds of seniors who have Medigaps buy these plans because they want to reduce their risk of out-of-pocket expenses. Over the last few years, under the guise of consumer choice, Congress has authorized insurers to sell new Medigap plans that cost less but don’t cover as many of the holes. Guess what? Older people don’t seem to buy them. “Seniors are very risk averse,” says Bonnie Burns, a policy specialist with California Health Advocates.

    It’s worth noting that Congress also pulled a fast one during the health reform debate. It slipped into the law a provision that will make seniors who buy Plans C and F assume more costs for their medical services. [I did not know about this this stab in the pocketbook and slicing away coverage.] The law calls on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to draft rules that would make seniors who choose Plans C and F pay a greater percentage of the Part B coinsurance. So, for example, instead of policies paying the entire 20 percent coinsurance as they now do, they may cover only a fraction of it. Campaign Desk has repeatedly noted that the pols haven’t been eager to promote this, but there has been little press interest, too.

    Under Lieberman’s bill, Medigap policies could cover only half of a senior’s out-of-pocket costs up to the $7500. In other words, they would have to pay $3750 right off the bat before any insurance would be allowed to kick in. And if they have an existing Medigap plan that does pay those costs, the government would slap them with an excise tax. One couple I know now pays $3720 for two Medigap policies that covers each of them and pays for everything. They would have to pay the tax, drop their policies, and each cough up the first $3750 to pay expenses, plus a premium for the new policy and a higher Medicare premium for Part B, which covers doctor services and hospital outpatient care. Lieberman’s plan would raise that, too. [As does Obama’s, per reports.]

    Making people pay a lot more is precisely what Lieberman and other pols want. He cites studies showing that when people have to pay more for their care, they will use less of it [D’uh!!!], and claims his proposal will reduce the debt and “save more than $600 billion over 10 years.” In his press release he says: “We can only save Medicare if we change it. Our plan contains some strong medicine but that’s what it will take to keep Medicare alive.”

    The devil is in the details….

    Do not trust anything Obama says which leaves wiggle room or has weasel terms.


    Here’s the NYTimes first take on details of changes to Medicare and Medicaid. I imagine there will be many changes within the Committee of the Twelve (Puppet) Caesars, and more details we may not hear about, but, on the whole, looks like Medicare is going to cost quite a bit more and will have less predictability for users of the best selling supplemental plans.

    Recipients — you may want to get anything somewhat discretionary or elective done before 2017.

    • northwestrain says:

      You are correct:

      And hurry up and die…?

      This is the real goal.

    • mjames says:

      Great comment.

      Part B is already too expensive and a supplemental is likewise too expensive. Plus which those payments come from one’s SS checks, reducing the Social Security benefit substantially.

      Lieberman wants us oldsters to pay for nothing except health insurance costs.

      This is going to get real ugly real fast as the Baby Boomers join the ranks of the over 65. There are just too many people affected to tolerate this crap.

      • jawbone says:

        That’s one reason it’s so important to Obama et al to make cuts and changes ASAP, before more voters begin to expeience what they’re doing….

        Facts on the ground are harder to change than proposed changes.

  8. Minkoff Minx says:

    Just got back, thanks for the good vibes Dak…it worked, it was rough but I was surprised how many people showed up. Tomorrow is the service and funeral…

    I do have one thing to say…

    If you go to a wake, wearing a Dukes of Hazard t-shirt…you might be a red neck…

    (Yes, there was a man there in jeans and a Duke boy t-shirt. I got a few laughs from that over while we were in line for the viewing…you have to have some sort of humor to get through this shit.)

    • madamab says:

      Minx, have been out of it due to work, and just wanted to send you big hugs and condolences on your loss.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        Thanks Madamab…it was good to know that Derrick’s parents read my little tribute to him, and they thanked me so much for writing it. You know how hard it is to find the right words at these things…and it may seem strange, but knowing they read what I wrote made me feel stronger. Derrick’s son is so grown up, it is like he really became a man since the last time I saw him last week. His little girl looks numb, she is nine and I think it has not sunk in yet, his wife is holding up well and so are his parents, I could not believe how strong they all are. There is a big network of support for them, and to see how many people showed up, and how many people Derrick has connected with was a very emotional thing…

  9. dakinikat says:

    Keep fighting-Last chance for #TroyDavis: Tell DA Chisolm to petition for withdrawal of death warrant: http://bit.ly/rem5xB #toomuchdoubt

  10. affinis says:

    Geneticists also get tangled up in BLUEs.